Review of REDLINERS by David Drake
The Strikers were supposed to open the way for the real invasion force, but when the enemy space navy unexpectedly shows up, the invasion is called off--and the strikers have to survive long enough for an under-fire pickup. Which gets increasingly scary as the enemy brings in heavy equipment--equipment that the strikers aren't equiped to deal with. Those who survive the battle are scarred--so much that they're redlined--deemed unable to function dependably. Which, considering that civilian society thinks that soldiers are not really human anyway, means they aren't fit for anything.
The head of government doesn't think that's right--and comes up with a special project. The strikers will guard a new colony expedition. That way, the strikers can have a bit of a break and civilians can see that they're useful. It makes sense, of a sort, until the planet they're colonizing turns out a lot more dangerous, a lot more deadly, than anyone had anticipated. With every tree, every blade of grass a deadly enemy, the strikers are all that's keeping the civilians alive--and the strikers really are redlined.
Author David Drake (seem more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Drake) takes a look at the perennial problem of soldiers who do what needs to be done, but become ruined for civilian life as a result. The planet they face bears a strong resemblance to Harry Harrison's Death World, and there's plenty of action as the strikers have to take out not only everything that moves, but everything that's planted to the ground as well.
Drake focuses on the military. For the most part, the civilians exist to admire the soldiers who are defending them. It's not exactly balanced, but it's a lot more enjoyable to read than the sort of militaristic 'civilians are evil pacifists' that Baen has been publishing recently. The emotionally damaged soldiers become very real and sympathetic as they seem to face an entire world bent on their destruction.
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